My daughter called me Thursday night to ask if she and her sister could come to supper Friday night. They would be busy on the weekend and wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving early. She told me I didn't have to cook anything; we could pick up something when they arrived.
My daughters know I hate holidays and hate cooking even more. They also know I love them, so I was overjoyed.
Friday was hectic with looming deadlines. I rushed to the grocery store and saw people buying big turkeys. I decided I would pick up a little turkey breast, just something to make it feel like Thanksgiving. I also got cranberries. I bought potatoes, fresh broccoli since Daughter No. 2 loves broccoli, and a pumpkin pie since everyone was buying them.
By 5:30 p.m., I was ready to start cooking. I didn't think the one-pound turkey breast would take long. I downloaded a recipe for cranberry sauce and cooked that. Went to put the turkey in the oven when Daughter No. 1 arrived at the door. Minutes later Daughter No. 2 called asking if I wanted to go to the store with her to pick up something for supper. "No," I told her, "I have it all under control."
Once she arrived, we giggled and hugged and danced around the room. We're kind of effervescent when we get together. I put the turkey breast in the oven, washed the potatoes and was going to peel them but Daughter No. 1 said I should leave the peelings on, even though I planned to mash them. Daughter No. 2 said yes, they call them dirty potatoes. Who cares, dirty potatoes, a new tradition.
I washed the broccoli as Daughter No. 2 looked at the bunch and confessed that she had bought some last week, cleaned it, cooked it and found a worm on her plate when she was eating it. It still gave her the shivers but she would try to taste it.
Then we talked. My daughters both work in professional careers with demanding schedules, but when they visit me we go back in time and my little girls appear in full force. Daughter No. 2 had been to see her hero since childhood, Bill Cosby, live in Moncton. She's always had a way with voices and so she did her Bill Cosby routine for us.
Daughter No. 1 had just gone through the retirement of a much-loved and respected boss and was looking forward to a quiet weekend at home with her husband catching up on yard work.
I had just returned from visiting Scotland, the home of our ancestors, so the girls were eager to hear all about it and see my photos from the Outer Hebrides.
I put the vegetables on and flipped the turkey breast. Many tales later, the vegetables were done and the turkey breast smelled like something was burning. When I opened the oven I saw that all the broth had dried up and remembered something about basting that I'd forgotten in all our chatter.
I got out the meat thermometer Daughter No. 1 had given me after I had my younger daughter and her roommate over last Thanksgiving. I had bought a small turkey, cooked it for four hours and when I cut into it, it was bloody. I threw out the whole bird and we ate a meatless supper.
This year I put the thermometer in the turkey breast and it was much too cold to be safe to eat. We put it back in and I wondered if my oven had pulled another funny one on me. Daughter No. 2 said she would faint if she didn't eat soon so we had potatoes, which had dried almost to a powder by the time we got to them, broccoli, dressing, bread and no cranberry sauce, which was bitter and inedible.
For dessert, I placed the store-bought pumpkin pie on the table. The girls looked at it and I remembered they don't like pumpkin pie. They both ate a sliver because they love me and we laughed about that.
We put tea bags in cups and got into tales from the Isle of Skye. When we remembered the tea, it looked strong enough to walk on, but we're not fussy so we drank it. Daughter No. 1 got up, hugged me and told me she was so glad I had cooked supper tonight. That brought an outburst of giggles, but I knew what she meant.
After supper, we tried watching my vacation photos on the TV but many of them needed to be rotated, so we had to tilt our heads to one side, which was complicated by the fact that the images were on a slide show and we couldn't control how fast they went by. We rushed through Barra, North Uist and Lochmaddy in a flash, then the city of Glasgow, and our necks and eyes were feeling the strain. We laughed at how bizarre this was. We should have invited Bill Cosby; he'd do one heck of a routine on our Thanksgiving.
The turkey breast was finally done. We checked the temperature but it looked hard and dry and I tossed the whole thing in the compost. I told my daughters that next Thanksgiving I'll throw out the turkey before I start cooking supper and maybe we'll eat fish sticks. We all like fish sticks and they cook in no time at all. And rice – I never botch rice and we all like that. We could have apple crisp for dessert. Whose big idea was it anyway that we have to eat turkey on Thanksgiving?
Daughter No. 1 sent me an e-mail when she arrived home: "So nice to be tired from laughing."
This year we are celebrating Daughter No. 2 becoming a homeowner and Daughter No. 1 about to become a mom in January. There won't be a turkey in sight, but there is still so much to be thankful for.
Donna D'Amour lives in Halifax.